BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Sleiman presides over inaugural meeting of new Cabinet, urges unity

BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman said on Wednesday that the new government's ministerial statement would be based on six main pillars. These include the Taif Accord, international resolutions, Arab foreign ministers' decisions made in January 2008, Lebanese national dialogue decisions in 2006, the Doha agreement, and the president's inaugural speech on the day of his election.

Sleiman headed Cabinet's inaugural meeting at the Presidential Palace on Wednesday.

A protocol photo was taken of Sleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri and the 30-member Cabinet before the first meeting, which lasted for 30 minutes.

Twenty-eight out of 30 ministers were dressed in customary white suits. Public Works Minister Ghazi Aridi and Minister of State Wael Abu Faour wore dark suits, as did Education Minister Bahia Hariri.

The photograph was taken after a brief meeting between Sleiman, Berri and Premier Fouad Siniora.

Information Minister Tarek Mitri said after the Cabinet meeting that the government has set up a committee to draft the ministerial statement.

The committee was comprised of Mitri, Agriculture Minister Elias Skaff, Finance Minister Mohammad Shattah, Telecommunications Minister Jebran Bassil, Labor Minister Mohammad Fneish, Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh, and ministers of state Youssef Taqla, Nassib Lahoud, and Abu Faour. 

The committee's first meeting will take place on Thursday.

Mitri quoted Sleiman as calling on all ministers to defend all government decisions despite the different opinions that might arise during discussions.

"The unity of the government and the ministers' commitment to its decisions is a very important matter," Sleiman said.

"There might be different perspectives and opinions during Cabinet discussions, but once the decision is taken, the government should act as one body," he added.

Mitri said that Suleiman briefed the Cabinet on his talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad on the sidelines of the Mediterranean Union summit, which took place in Paris on July 13. Sleiman and Assad exchanged visits in the French capital and reportedly agreed on establishing diplomatic ties between Lebanon and Syria.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem is expected to visit Beirut soon to deliver a formal invitation for Sleiman to visit Damascus.

On his way back from Paris on Tuesday, Sleiman told reporters that his first foreign visit will be to Syria.

Mitri also quoted the president as saying that he was optimistic about the general situation in the country.

"The recent arrival of many Lebanese and foreigners to the country is a good indication," Sleiman said.

Siniora also spoke during the Cabinet session, congratulating the newly appointed ministers and praising his former government, "which passed through hard times."

Siniora thanked Sleiman for all the efforts that he made to facilitate the formation of the new Cabinet.

The premier called on all ministers to unite in the face of the different challenges that the government would face in the coming period.

"Big challenges are awaiting us ... we must all unite to face them," he said.

"Our diversity and different political affiliations should not be an obstacle to our unity as a government," he added.

Siniora added that the new government should pay close attention to both security and economic issues.

 

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